Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Now after the death of Joshua--probably not a long period, for the
Canaanites seem to have taken advantage of that event to attempt
recovering their lost position, and the Israelites were obliged to
renew the war.
the children of Israel asked the Lord--The divine counsel on this, as
on other occasions, was sought by Urim and Thummim, by applying to the
high priest, who, according to JOSEPHUS, was Phinehas.
saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first--The
elders, who exercised the government in their respective tribes, judged
rightly, that in entering upon an important expedition, they should
have a leader nominated by divine appointment; and in consulting the
oracle, they adopted a prudent course, whether the object of their
inquiry related to the choice of an individual commander, or to the
honor of precedency among the tribes.
2. the Lord said, Judah shall go up--The predicted pre-eminence
was thus conferred upon Judah by divine direction, and its appointment
to take the lead in the ensuing hostilities was of great importance, as
the measure of success by which its arms were crowned, would animate
the other tribes to make similar attempts against the Canaanites within
their respective territories.
I have delivered the land into his hand--not the whole country, but
the district assigned for his inheritance.
3. Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me . . ., that we
may fight against the Canaanites--Being conterminous tribes
(Jos 19:1, 2),
they had a common interest, and were naturally associated in this
5, 6. Bezek--This place lay within the domain of Judah, about twelve
miles south of Jerusalem.
found Adoni-bezek--that is, "lord of Bezek"--he was "found," that is,
surprised and routed in a pitched battle, whence he fled; but being
taken prisoner, he was treated with a severity unusual among the
Israelites, for they "cut off his thumbs and great toes." Barbarities
of various kinds were commonly practised on prisoners of war in ancient
times, and the object of this particular mutilation of the hands and
feet was to disable them for military service ever after. The
infliction of such a horrid cruelty on this Canaanite chief would have
been a foul stain on the character of the Israelites if there were not
reason for believing it was done by them as an act of retributive
justice, and as such it was regarded by Adoni-bezek himself, whose
conscience read his atrocious crimes in their punishment.
7. Threescore and ten kings--So great a number will not appear strange,
when it is considered that anciently every ruler of a city or large
town was called a king. It is not improbable that in that southern
region of Canaan, there might, in earlier times, have been even more
till a turbulent chief like Adoni-bezek devoured them in his insatiable
8. Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had
taken it--The capture of this important city, which ranks among the
early incidents in the war of invasion
is here noticed to account for its being in the possession of the
Judahites; and they brought Adoni-bezek thither
in order, probably, that his fate being rendered so public, might
inspire terror far and wide. Similar inroads were made into the other
unconquered parts of Judah's inheritance
The story of Caleb's acquisition of Hebron is here repeated
16. the children of the Kenite, Moses' father-in-law, went up out of
the city of palm trees with the children of Judah--called "the Kenite,"
as probably descended from the people of that name
(Nu 24:21, 22).
If he might not himself, his posterity did accept the invitation of
to accompany the Israelites to Canaan. Their first encampment was in
the "city of palm trees"--not Jericho, of course, which was utterly
destroyed, but the surrounding district, perhaps En-gedi, in early
times called Hazezon-tamar
from the palm-grove which sheltered it. Thence they removed for some
unknown cause, and associating themselves with Judah, joined in an
expedition against Arad, in the southern part of Canaan
On the conquest of that district, some of this pastoral people pitched
their tents there, while others migrated to the north
17-29. And Judah went with Simeon his brother--The course of the
narrative is here resumed from
and an account given of Judah returning the services of Simeon
by aiding in the prosecution of the war within the neighboring tribes.
slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath--or Zephathah
a valley lying in the southern portion of Canaan.
Hormah--destroyed in fulfilment of an early vow of the Israelites
The confederate tribes, pursuing their incursions in that quarter, came
successively to Gaza, Askelon, and Ekron, which they took. But the
Philistines seem soon to have regained possession of these cities.
19. the Lord was with Judah; . . . but they could not drive out the
inhabitants of the valley--The war was of the Lord, whose omnipotent
aid would have ensured their success in every encounter, whether on the
mountains or the plains, with foot soldiers or cavalry. It was
distrust, the want of a simple and firm reliance on the promise of God,
that made them afraid of the iron chariots
21. the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that
inhabited Jerusalem--Judah had expelled the people from their part
The border of the two tribes ran through the city--Israelites and
natives must have been closely intermingled.
22, 23. the house of Joseph--the tribe of Ephraim, as distinguished
24. the spies . . . said, . . . Show us, . . . the entrance into the
city--that is, the avenues to the city, and the weakest part of the
we will show thee mercy--The Israelites might employ these means of
getting possession of a place which was divinely appropriated to them:
they might promise life and rewards to this man, though he and all the
Canaanites were doomed to destruction
but we may assume the promise was suspended on his embracing the true
religion, or quitting the country, as he did. If they had seen him to
be firmly opposed to either of these alternatives, they would not have
constrained him by promises any more than by threats to betray his
countrymen. But if they found him disposed to be serviceable, and to
aid the invaders in executing the will of God, they might promise to
26. Luz--(See on
27-36. The same course of subjugation was carried on in the other
tribes to a partial extent, and with varying success. Many of the
natives, no doubt, during the progress of this exterminating war, saved
themselves by flight and became, it is thought, the first colonists in
Greece, Italy, and other countries. But a large portion made a stout
resistance and retained possession of their old abodes in Canaan. In
other cases, when the natives were vanquished, avarice led the
Israelites to spare the idolaters, contrary to the express command of
God; and their disobedience to His orders in this matter involved them
in many troubles which this book describes.